School board finalizes long-term initiative to improve education

By Alissa Groeninger

This month the Champaign School Board finalized the plans for a long-range initiative it began developing in November 2007.

“Great Schools, Together” is designed to improve every possible aspect of district operations, said Kristine Chalifoux, school board member.

“(Our goal is) to provide students with exemplary education,” Chalifoux said.

The board began the planning process by holding public forums, which allowed parents and other community members to voice their opinions.

“People want a better education for all of the kids,” Chalifoux said.

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She said many community members voiced a desire for more gifted and special education programs and better facilities. “We want to make sure that those facilities are as conducive to the best learning as possible,” said Abby Hobbs, a Champaign resident.

With the plan in place, the district hopes to achieve eight goals, which include more communication with the community, a uniform approach to discipline, the creation of an excellent teaching environment and more class choices for special education and gifted students.

“(We are) just making sure that all kids have the best education that (can be provided) to them,” Chalifoux said.

Now that the development is finalized, the school board has instructed the administration to implement the plan.

“The district is very excited,” said Beth Shepperd, assistant superintendent for Human Resources and Community Relations. “We hope to use this plan as a guide (to have) some of the most exemplary schools in the nation.”

Community members joined one of three working groups, focusing on programming, infrastructure and community engagement. They also helped form the Vision Committee, which oversaw the development of the plan. Each working group developed a plan, and the Vision Committee created one combined goal.

The working groups and the Vision Committee created short-term, medium-term and long-term goals.

The short-term goals must be completed within three years, and they include the development of a proactive approach to discipline and diversity training for faculty.

The medium-term goals are to be completed in eight years, and they include increasing the number of honors classes, encouraging more students to take higher-level courses and working with the University and Parkland College to better professional development.

The long-term goals are to be completed within 15 years, and they include increasing sports opportunities, the development of more early childhood and pre-K programs and hiring more staff members to offer more courses.

“If you’ve got those interim goals it hopefully means everybody is on the same page,” Hobbs said.

Hobbs said three- and eight-year goals can serve as stepping stones for the 15-year goals.

“They’ve really reached out to the community and tried to involve as many people from as many sectors from the community,” Hobbs said. “(This is the) path that gets you to where you want to be.”